By Lola Amendt, M.A., Program Support Specialist for the Alzheimer’s Association Minnesota-North Dakota Chapter
Caregivers for people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia face special challenges. While other diseases may only require short bursts of care, the need for constant care increases as this disease progresses. In 2015 alone, more than 15 million people provided 18 billion hours of unpaid care.
While many caregivers want their loved one to advance through this disease in the comfort of their home, it can be a challenging task. But you’re not alone in this journey. The Alzheimer’s Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care and support – we’re here for you through our training, support groups, caregiver center, and 24/7 Helpline (800.272.3900).
Below are a few tips for successful caregiving in the home. For more advice and helpful tools, visit our caregiver center at alz.org/care.
- Maintain a calm, predictable environment that’s clear of clutter. Remove objects that could be dangerous, use adequate lighting throughout the home, and consider accessibility challenges.
- Wandering can occur at any time. Utilize safety devices and enroll in Medic-Alert + Safe Return to gain access to a 24-hour, nationwide emergency response.
- Make sure your loved one has regular checkups. Ensuring that hearing, vision and other senses are assisted, along with close monitoring of medication and nutrition, can go a long way to support their safety.
- Be aware of your own behavior. As communication skills change, persons with dementia often mirror behavior they see modeled. Take a deep breath and try not to show your frustrations.
- Don’t argue. If the person says something you don’t agree with, let it be. Focus instead on the feelings behind their words and provide reassurance that you understand their emotions.
- Using in-home or out-of-home respite (referring to a short time of rest) can be a stress reliever for a caregiver. In-home services can offer supervision, companionship, housekeeping, or personal care to help with bathing or exercising. Out-of-home services include adult day center programs, which feature socialization and activities.
- If you’re a full-time caregiver, respite services can provide a much-needed break with time to rest or run errands. This can also be helpful for those trying to balance a job along with caregiving duties.
While aging at home is possible, there may come a time when more care is needed than what you or your family can provide. To help plan for the safety of the person with dementia, call the Alzheimer’s Association at 800.272.3900 – we’re happy to discuss your specific situation and needs, inform you of resource options and help develop a safety plan that’s right for you.
As this disease progresses into the late-stages, round-the-clock care becomes more intensive. It’s not always possible to continue providing the level of care needed at home; it may be necessary to consider long-term care options, including full-time home care support or a residential care facility.
Regardless of where your loved one’s care takes place, know that you have us here as a support system standing behind you 24/7, every step of the way.
Lola Amendt, M.A., is the Program Support Specialist for the Alzheimer’s Association Minnesota-North Dakota Chapter. Lola has both a Master’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies, and a Graduate Certificate in Gerontology from Iowa State University. For the past 10 years, Lola has worked in Social Services at several Senior Living communities in the Twin Cities where she not only provided direct care to individuals at all stages of a diagnosis, but also offered support to care partners by facilitating caregiver support groups and providing dementia education to facility staff and family members. Lola’s current responsibilities include overseeing Early Stage Programs, and delivering educational programs to professional and community groups.